Released in the US for the first time in September last year, the much anticipated Ford Focus Electric has shown that the EV market remains a difficult nut to crack, having sold just 10 vehicles so far. Since sales of the car started in California, New York and New Jersey, the number of units sold also appears to be tailing off, with only seven sold in December, three in January and none leaving showrooms last month. So what’s behind what can only be described as disappointing results?
Ford Focus EV – Selling Price
Certainly, the retail price is very high for a car of this size in an economy that is showing mixed signs of recovery. The Ford Focus Electric sells for $39,200 (£25,000), which is a great deal higher than cars of a similar performance, albeit those that do not qualify for tax incentives that reach $10,000 in California and $7,500 elsewhere in the US. It’s difficult to know whether the range of the vehicle is a factor, but certainly recent opinion polls point to this being an enduring problem in the EV market.
Ford Focus EV – Driving Range
The Ford Focus Electric manages 76 miles on one charge, which is perfectly acceptable for short runs to work, school or the shops, but it does create problems for family holidays. Recent surveys suggest consumers are ideally looking for a vehicle that does over 100 miles per charge, but preferable 200 miles, a target that remains some way off in terms of the available technology.
Ford Focus EV – Performance
Still, this is an impressive vehicle. It generates 130 horsepower and ranks as the most fuel-efficient vehicle in the compact class in the US, which certainly represents progress. It now remains to be seen how Ford will tackle underperforming sales as the company looks to expand availability throughout the US and beyond. The automaker has announced plans to sell in an additional 16 markets by the end of this year. In terms of Europe, the Ford Focus Electric should be in showrooms by the end of 2012.
Ford Focus EV – Government Funding
In the UK, the Ford Focus EV featured in the Ultra-Low Carbon Vehicles initiative at the start of 2010. This involved a test fleet of 15 Ford Focus electrics doing the rounds in Hillingdon, a borough of London, to try out the newly installed charging infrastructure. The idea was to introduce the concept of plug-in vehicles with the help of government funding.
Ford Focus EV –vs- Volt & Leaf
Ford has pointed out that hybrids took a long time to take hold in the market when they were first introduced more than a decade ago. However, Ford’s answer to the plug-in seems to faring worse than other competitors such as the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, at least in terms of sales. The company has stated its aim to have electrified vehicles responsible for between 10 and 25 per cent of its total global sales by 2020, which includes plug-ins as well as hybrids, most of which will be made up by the latter. That represents a pretty wide margin for error and suggests that hybrids will deliver the bulk of these sales. The jury is therefore still out on whether the Ford Focus Electric can deliver.